CHR probes surrender of 80 suspected rebels in Bukidnon

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/02 December) – The Commission on Human Rights is investigating the recent surrender of 80 alleged New People’s Army (NPA) over complaints of illegal arrest and other violations, lawyer Jeanny Ivy Abrina, CHR-10 regional director said.

Abrina told MindaNews Friday they started the probe on November 28, based on a report by the 4th Infantry Division.

But she cited that they received reports from a human rights group prompting their investigation.

“Our central office received reports from Karapatan that the returnees have been illegally arrested, detained, and labeled as child soldiers,” she said in a series of text messages.

Abrina, however, said they have yet to finalize their independent report on the matter.

She added that they have not received a copy of the Karapatan report.

Eighty alleged members of the New People’s Army surrendered to the 8th Infantry Battalion in Maramag town on Nov. 15.

The surrenderees, led by Benjamin Salusad alias Nonong, also reportedly turned in 25 high-powered firearms.

Only 31 of the surrenderees were said to be fulltime combatants and 49 were members of the Milisya ng Bayan (People’s Militia). Seventy of them were males.

The surrenderees belong to the Tigwahanon, Matigsalog and Manobo tribes of San Fernando.

MindaNews earlier reported that the 4ID maintained they did not round up the surrenderees as the Communist Party of the Philippines claimed in a statement.

Maj. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, Commanding Officer of the 4th Civil-Military Operations Battalion-Philippine Army said in the report that the identities of the 80 surrenderees were “validated facts and confirmed by our tactical intelligence.”

The CPP called the surrender ceremony in Bukidnon a “psywar fakery,” adding the supposed surrenderees “may have been rounded up by the military and made to pose as NPA fighters.”

“Kumander Nonong is the commanding officer of the Sangay sa Platon Pampropaganda 3, Front 6 of the North Central Mindanao RegionalCommittee of the New People’s Army. They were interviewed by local and international reporters. They voluntarily surrendered. We did not round them up. They knew very well they will be covered,” said Osias.

The Army official said Nonong told him he decided to surrender because he was disgusted by the way the NPA treats the lumad fighters as “second class citizen pa rin in the communist movement.”

Bukidnon Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. also expressed doubts on Salusad’s surrender based on statements by San Fernando Vice Mayor Levi Edma, who told the Sangguniang Panlalawigan earlier that the armed group leader actually heads a lawless group and has been booted out from the NPA.

Salusad told MindaNews earlier that Edma financed the illegal gold mining activity in Dao village in San Fernando town.

But Edma denied this, saying he is “a buyer, not a financier”. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)